Love Letters

Growing flowers in the desert

Putting Down Roots 28 February, 2007

Filed under: Desert life,gardening — Brighid Fraser @ 9:34 am

I’ve lived in this town for almost seven years and I’ve been pretending it isn’t permanent. I’ve been living in this rocky desert, all the while dreaming of returning to the mountains – either the mountains of my birth or the mountains of my heart. But it doesn’t seem as though my husband will ever want to leave this place – his entire family is within a half-hour’s drive, and unlike me, he’s very close to his family. My kids are in school here and I know what it’s like to be wrenched away just as you make friends and how hard it is to make friends in a new place.

So, it appears that I’m now a desert dweller – against my will. I suppose that I could live in worse places – the Gobi springs to mind. I mean, it’s not like this place is uncivilised and completely lacking the essentials – namely a locally-owned coffee shop, bookstore and a killer sandwich joint. It’s just that … well, it’s not the Highlands or the Rockies of Colorado. It’s unflinchingly sunny here nearly every damned day. And the summers are oppressively hot. And there are two seasons – the hot season and the hot and wet season. I can’t remember the last time I watched a tree go through its entire life-cycle. I miss the crisp coolness of fall air; the tang of ozone when it snows; the soft spring rain; and summer days that aren’t like stepping into an oven set on broil.

There are good things about this desert – swimming outside on Christmas Day, for example. Authentic Mexican food. Not having to dig out from under two feet of snow. The opportunity to learn a whole new way of gardening. The history and the gorgeous architecture. The close proximity of awesome hiking trails. The kids’ school. My school. My husband’s job.

It’s time for me to embrace the desert and put down some roots here. It’ll be tough, though. Underneath the top soil is a layer of caliche, that impermeable layer of calcium carbonate cemented together with gravel, sand, clay, and silt. Roots can’t go deep enough to get the proper amount of nutrients, water, or space and so the plants don’t grow. But as any expert desert gardener knows, you can remove the caliche and amend the soil and plants will grow big and strong and healthy. Maybe that’s what I need to do – amend the soil.